The group chat with my girlfriends was on fire the other night. Facebook brought back a photo of us from the past, freshly minted 20-years-old, on a little beach trip we shared one summer. We started reliving everything: our lack of camping skills that got us eating nothing but sad sandwiches for four days straight, getting lost in the woods and getting a huge scar on my knee for falling down a pit in the pitch of darkness, the never-ending beach parties.
We were about to close the basket again with the ‘Great Memories’ bow around it when one of my friends lightly recalled: “remember that dude that stalked me the whole trip and actually ended up pushing me down a wooden deck that last night for saying no to him?”.
The basket bow wrapped tight around our necks and oxygen left the chat.
We felt the need to break the story apart more carefully. We recounted everything that had happened during those four days in relation to that person, relabeling it with the worry and heaviness that it had always deserved. We got frustrated with the fact that laughing awkwardly and moving on fast was all we knew about reacting to ‘grown up’ situations.
To me, this is the core of Millennial Behavior. In your 30s, you get the perspective to understand that even the tiniest trauma that you’ve been told by the adults in your life to quiet down and push away adds up and reflects their sadist light on every single aspect of your life. We are just now understanding the dangers of the way we lightened the stories we tell while we awkwardly sort our emotional baggage of all those years of feeling alone and unimportant in silence.
I think a lot about the younger generation, hoping they develop better coping mechanisms. While I know youngsters nowadays are way more emotionally evolved in a lot of aspects, they live their lives with a new set of anxieties, social challenges, and scarring problems. They still feel alone and unprepared, like we did and still do.
So when a friend of mine asked me to help her work on a psychology project aimed at teenagers—I was so excited. It began with a social study that built a mental map of what was important to them, what worried them, what they felt they needed help with.
Questions I’ve never been asked when I was that age and would’ve loved to answer. Based on that, they created a blog for them to have a reliable source of information on a vast variety of topics. It may not sound new, but we’re a tiny and traditionalist country and this felt pretty groundbreaking. We then scripted three little animated videos, exposing some of these worries and leading them to the website. They revolved mostly around the new thin line between technology and sexuality; we weren’t here to tell them what’s right or wrong; we were here to help. So we happily obliged, designed beautiful characters, made them as multidimensional as possible, and started scribing away.
The switch from the happy-optimistic helper and always-sad-about-who-rules-society adult hit me deep. It happened when the head of the project suffered a drastic change, and now we were responding to this renowned doctor leader of another department. It wasn’t the way he talked about it constantly with a drag on his tone, as this was the worst thing on his to-do list for a typical Thursday, and it was not the scary mansplaining he brought to the table sometimes such as “the teen even have a slang for it, they call it the morning after pill”.
What broke my heart was the patronizing he forced us to communicate. He got us talking to the young as if they were absolutely clueless about the dumbest things, and by doing so the message that could’ve been so powerful got unbelievably robotic and diluted in between some good tips and many retrograde “solutions”. The scenarios described only heterosexual “couples” and the female protagonists being always damsels in distress. Edits coming and going, it ended becoming the same rotten message they told our generation when we were younger:
If someone treats you badly on a date try to politely walk it off.
If you’re a girl, share your location at all times.
If you’re sending a nude, think twice because it can haunt you forever.
If you have a question about sex don’t google it, silly.
Why are we still telling girls to go above and beyond to care for themselves without actually telling every person to be better for the sake of each other? Why can’t we use empowerment instead of the constant trouble-solving madness to make everyone happy they taught us? Why couldn’t we talk about how a broken condom is not the only issue around sex in the world?
My friend and I got torn between doing what felt right and what was asked, it became so frustrating we had our first massive fight in 20 years. But then we got it, this wasn’t our war, we were just asked to make some weapons and move on with our lives. Our past teen selves were ashamed, but we raised the conversation between each other and the rest of our friends, we bowed to find another way to make some good to the new generations.
This is why now that my deed with the devil is done, I’m writing to you, my dear youngsters, what I couldn’t say in the videos: Don’t take any crap.
Grab that phone and get that doubt out of your head, there are great sources out there for whatever you’re needing. Honor your feelings, listen to your gut, don’t cave into pressures from society. You don’t have to chin down and blindly respect your elders’ (or anybody’s) point of view just because.
Speak up, speak loud, don’t hide away and whatever you’re going through I promise you it happened before and if it didn’t? Get in touch, we can solve it together.
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